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Are you still looking for a plant for a dark corner of your home? It’s frustrating to watch your house plants founder in the shade, and the usual options can be dull and slow-growing. But have you considered the Chinese evergreen?
Also known as Aglaonema, this plant is easy to care for and maintains its colored foliage even in the shade. Its leaves vary from yellow to emerald green, and different varieties have everything from silver zebra stripes to vivid pink veins.
Here’s everything you need to know about growing a Chinese evergreen house plant.
|Similar to||Peperomia, Croton|
|Native to||South-east Asia|
|Maximum size||3’ x 3’|
|Watering requirements||Moderate weekly watering|
|Light requirements||Low to moderate indirect light|
|Preferred temperature||60 – 75F (15.5 – 24C)|
|Soil||Well draining soil|
|Fertilizer||Liquid feed diluted to half strength applied monthly|
|Propagation method||Leaf cuttings and splitting|
|Toxicity||Toxic to humans and pets, sap is an irritant|
|Vulnerable to||Generally resistant to pests and disease|
Chinese Evergreen Houseplant Caring Guide
Aglaonema is native to the floor of the rainforests in south-east Asia. Its tolerance for low light comes from this habitat. It also means that it’s pretty resilient when it comes to watering.
You should let the top inch or two of soil dry out before you give it a drink. The one thing likely to upset this plant is overwatering, which will cause the leaves to turn yellow. Thankfully, if you spot the problem in time, the roots should recover well.
Because it won’t be getting baked by the summer sun, it needs less water than the rest of your plants. You should also remember to cut the amount you water it by about half in the winter when the plant is dormant.
As a jungle floor plant, Aglaonema hates direct sunlight. It doesn’t need it either. Unlike other variegated plants, its foliage will stay bright and interesting even in shadow, although some varieties do need several hours of indirect light to keep the leaves looking their best.
Although it doesn’t care that much about sunlight, it does need to be warm. Placing the plant appropriately is one of the most important aspects of Chinese evergreen care. Make sure that its shady corner never gets below 60 degrees (16 Celcius), keep it away from external doors, and bring it in from a drafty porch in the winter.
Your Chinese evergreen will do fine at the normal humidity level of your house. Like all tropical plants, it’s even happier if you can mist it regularly, but this isn’t an essential chore. Make sure you keep it away from drafts and radiators, though, as these dry out the air.
If you don’t have a misting gun, a good tip is to put your Aglaonema beside other leafy plants. Together, they maintain a microclimate and a higher, more constant level of humidity. It also gives you an excuse to collect different varieties of this beautiful plant.
Soil and Plant Food
Chinese evergreen will do fine with a regular potting mix. They prefer it to be well-draining, so some growers mix 20% sand or Perlite into the soil when they repot the plant. Again, this isn’t as vital a job as it is with other, more sensitive plants.
You can feed your plant with compost or a regular liquid feed for leafy green plants. Aglaonema is not particularly hungry, so dilute the liquid fertilizer by 50% and feed it monthly. It doesn’t need any food in winter.
When you keep Chinese evergreen as an indoor plant, one thing growers do notice is that it needs a lot of copper. Without enough of this trace element, the leaves can become discolored. However, as we’ll discuss later, it needs regular repotting. An annual dose of new soil should be enough to take care of your plant’s copper requirements without buying a special feed.
Additional Care Instructions
We’ve established that Aglaonema doesn’t need as much attention as many other indoor plants. Nonetheless, there are things you can do to take it from pretty to spectacular. Read on for some more tips on Chinese evergreen care.
Repotting and transplanting
Expect to repot this plant every year. When repotting, you should never size up more than 2 inches at a time to reduce the risk of overwatering.
When you repot Aglaonema, you can also split it, as it’s a multi-stemmed plant. This allows you to transplant it and gain a whole new plant baby to care for.
Lift the root ball and use your fingers to tease the plant into two or three distinct clumps. Try gently shaking the plant to loosen the roots and be careful not to damage them.
It’s much harder to split the root ball if it’s pot bound, which is another reason to repot this plant regularly. It’s best to do this in the spring so the plant has a whole season to recover and give you new growth.
Although this plant doesn’t mind low light, some varieties can get leggy and etiolated if they don’t get enough sun. If this happens, you can prune the weaker growth and move the plant to a new location.
You should prune dead leaves from your Chinese evergreen so that the plant puts all its energy into growing new ones. Some growers also prefer to prune the tall growth to keep it looking more ‘bushy’.
As always, make sure your pruning shears are sharp and clean before you begin.
This plant is generally resistant to pests. Its leaves are tough enough to provide a challenge to the common insects who want to get to the sap. However, some growers do report problems with mealybugs.
If you do notice signs of pests on your Chinese evergreen, clean the leaves regularly with soapy water until the bugs have disappeared. Unfortunately, because this plant has so many leaves, this can be quite time-consuming.
To keep the pests at bay once you’ve cleaned your plant, you can mist the leaves. Plain water is enough to discourage insects, but adding neem oil is even more effective as a natural pesticide.
The flowers aren’t showy and they don’t often appear indoors, but Chinese evergreen does bloom. The mature plants produce light green flowers with a central stigma. They look a bit like a modest peace lily and will form berries, but it’s best to pluck them out before they fruit to preserve your plant’s energy.
Chinese evergreen is toxic, especially to cats and dogs. The leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause a painful, swollen mouth, drooling and vomiting. If you suspect your pet has ingested the leaves of this plant, you should take them to the vet.
Humans should also avoid eating this plant, and its sap can cause an allergic reaction and a painful rash.
Chinese Evergreen FAQs
Where can I buy a Chinese Evergreen plant?
You might get lucky and find this plant in a store. Supermarkets often have bargain indoor plants that survive remarkably well in the long term. You should just check when you bring your plant home that it’s in a suitable pot with lots of drainage.
However, if you look online, you’ll be able to find a whole range of varieties and choose the colors which appeal to you most. Because the Chinese evergreen is a popular office plant, a company that supplies house plants for workplaces is a good place to look for a larger specimen. A mature plant can be up to 3 feet by 3 feet.
How often should I water the Chinese Evergreen plant?
As it won’t be spending much time in the direct sun, Aglaonema is fine with weekly watering. You can expect to water it half as often in the winter.
If this plant is in an office and many people want to ‘help’ with watering, make sure that it’s in a well-draining pot with a drip tray at the bottom. This way, you’ll be able to tell if it’s getting overwatered and prevent it from getting root rot.
Why has my Chinese Evergreen stopped growing?
Lots of leafy tropical plants are slow-growing, but it’s unusual for Aglaonema to stop growing completely. You shouldn’t expect much growth in winter or in the first month after you split or repot it, but if it’s the height of the growing season, there might be a problem.
Look again at whether your plant is getting too much water or not enough sun. If you move it or change your routine, you’ll hopefully see new growth within a few weeks.
Why has my plant wilted?
If your plant is looking floppy, the first thing to check is your watering habits. If it’s getting too much or too little water, the leaves will suffer.
Chinese evergreen is also very sensitive to temperature. If it’s too close to a draft or an air conditioner, it will suffer. Being too close to a heater will also dry it out and cause it to droop.
Luckily, this plant is very forgiving. If you can find the source of the problem, the leaves should perk up again.
This plant is a fantastic choice for any home or office. It’s easy to keep happy, even for beginners, and there are very few plants that will give you such a reliable pop of color with such little effort. If your home is dark or you’ve run out of space on the windowsill, this is a great choice.
Split it up and put it in every room of the house, or get several varieties and plant them together for maximum impact. It’s a resilient and rewarding plant that will stay with you for years to come.